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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 13th March 2013 at 11:00 am
Ahead of their appearance at SXSW 2013, Cheryl sat down with brothers David and Joe Dunwell of the Leeds band The Dunwells before their show in DC in mid-February to talk about country music, alphabet soup radio stations and buskers with dogs.
Welcome, is this your first time in DC?
David: Second time in DC, we did a small show during the last tour, so that was in 2011. Hmmmm, oh yes, we were at the Birchmere [which is really outside of the city in Alexandria, Virginia]. Originally, we came to America and came to Memphis for the first time, that’s where we met our management and they brought us back out to record our album.
I am confused on the trajectory of your album, how many times has it been released?
Joe: It’s only been released twice. It was released under an independent label called Playing in Traffic and was released in February 2012. Then it was re-released when we got resigned, and the album got repackaged and we added a few new tracks, but the same title for the album and was out the 28th of August of last year. So it’s a year old in theory, but it feels like it’s just been released.
So did you get a chance to see anything of the city before load in?
Joe: We didn’t. Today has been a hectic day. We did radio all over the place. WRNR in Annapolis and Sirius FM and……
I don’t mean to put you on the spot
David: There are so many letters in your radio stations.
Yeah at home you just have numbers – 1, 2, 6. It’s a lot harder to do it over here. You basically have to get on Sirius or a tv show.
Joe: Sirius is playing us, so that’s good. The Pulse is the one playing us.
I saw that you put out the EP ‘Leaving the Rose’, what inspired doing that?
Joe: That’s kind of just to keep the buzz going in the UK because we are spending so much time in America. Just to have something in the UK to let them know we’re not ditching them. We love the UK and we are looking forward to being back in Yorkshire.
David: We had an amazing opportunity in Los Angeles to do an acoustic session at the Village Recorder, loads of people have recorded there like the Rolling Stones, and Biffy Clyro were in that studio. So we were really excited. It was this magical day where we set up in a circle and we started playing the acoustic versions of the songs.
How did you pick ‘Hide & Seek’ – which is my favourite Imogen Heap song ever?
David: We just love the song.
Joe: I played it one night, and Jonny was there and liked it and it’s been in our back catalogue and history quite a while.
I have to say, it’s is perfect. And while the EP is only available in the UK, so I can’t get it, I was thrilled to find that ‘Hide & Seek’ is available as a free download from your web site. (I later discovered they were selling the EP at the gig, so I did get to buy it!)
Have you been doing anything else, writing on the road while you are here?
David: We are always writing, we always have to be prepared. To be honest, writing is something that we do to wind down as a band. Just to sit and write music is a pleasure. So we’ve actually done loads this tour. It’s also useful to be able to keep changing the set around and play new songs while we’re playing.
So we will hear something that’s not on the album tonight?
Yeah you will. It’s fun for us.
I hear a lot of influences of American country music in your songs. Is that something that you grew up with?
Joe: That’s unintentional, I think it comes from the style of guitar playing, the five part harmonies adds a country twist to it.
David: We’re a fan of American music, I don’t think five lads from Leeds really knew that we were fans of country – that wasn’t really a goal, we were just fans of American music in general. But I take that as a complement that you hear that in our music.
It seems that you are riding the current wave of alt-folk/folk-rock thing here, is that something you set out for or was organically how the music came about?
Joe: We just play our music and see what happens. A lot of people have come up to us and said, “your time is now”, but how do you ever know when you time is? We’ve been slugging it out for 3 and a half years and we just love what we’re doing.
David: Folk rock did not just disappear and gone oh this is good and been brought out of the box again.
But it certainly is in a resurgence. I’m covering a lot of that right now.
David: But there have been folk-rock bands playing for ages and haven’t had the media attention and now all of a sudden they do.
Do you listen to that on your own? Because I am always surprised at how different the music is that artists listen to compared to what they produce.
David: I’m definitely a folk rock fan. I love singer-songwriter style.
Joe: The Frames, Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, English bands like Elbow and Radiohead, so mishmash all that together.
David: American influences come from Ryan Adams and singer/songwriters like that as well.
Mentioning Glen, did you guys used to do a lot of busking early on? Did you ever have a really funny stories like when the guy stole all his money in ‘Once’?
Joe: We did used to do a fair amount of busking because we used to play a lot of pubs and clubs. But no, nothing funny, there were a lot better buskers out there than us. There was a guy with three dogs. He took all the credit. They’d bark along to his songs, they were great .
The opening track on your album (‘I Could Be a King’) I hear of Of Monsters and Men in it, big time. I’m sure you get compared to a lot of different artists right now. Who do you think has been the most favourable comparison that you’ve gotten?
Joe: That’s the first comparison to Of Monsters and Men. We’ve been compared to Mumford and Sons a lot which isn’t a bad thing because 1) they’re a great band, and 2) they are doing amazing well, they’ve kind of opened the floodgates for this kind of music right now.
Have you heard of Milo Greene from LA? They have five members and four lead singers, so you are only one off! But they literally say they have no lead singer and rotate through everyone except the drummer. How do you decide who’s going to take lead on a song?
David: Whether it’s the person who wrote the song, or who had the idea for the song, normally they take the lead vocal. But normally you can feel it as well, Joe’s got a really big powerful voice that sits on top of the big loud parts so Joe would take the big choruses.
Being brothers and cousins and school chums, how does that work in with how you deal with your music? Does familiarity breed contempt or is the longevity what gets you through?
David: We’ve all known each other for such a long time, but we’ve got such different tastes in music it makes it quite interesting when we come together to rehearsal spaces and fight it out. That’s how we get the results that we are all happy with. We make sure that we try to listen to everybody and get everybody’s ideas on the table.
You said that with a huge grin, does that mean there is a lot of fighting?
(laughter) David: No, no fighting’s not the word!
Joe: We have five big personalities in the band and I think that’s what gets us through.
If you could duet with someone, who would you want it to be?
David: I would love to stand in on one of Coldplay’s tours, that would be wonderful to sing a song with Chris Martin.
Joe: Guy Garvey from Elbow. I’ve been listening to the back catalog of his stuff and he just a very clever man.
Well thank you so much for talking the time to talk to me, see you out there.
Cosmo Jarvis isn’t quite a household name. Yet. The proud author of hundreds of songs, four albums, including a double, and a self-penned, produced and directed feature film, Jarvis’s career trajectory is slowly but surely upwards. Anyone familiar with his work will be aware of the heart-on-sleeve autobiographical nature of many of his songs, along with a powerful ability to tell an engaging and thought-provoking story. TGTF was lucky enough to be able to catch a few words with the man himself before the gig, which we will come to in a moment. But what of the gig itself? There’s no polite way to say this – from his hooded lids to gently shuffling demeanour, Jarvis appears a bit stoned. The band is mostly electric tonight, so the more delicate arrangements are abandoned for a faster, barer approach.
Favourite ‘Love This’ is rushed through in the first couple of songs, and the fear is that some more subtle moments might be lost in the mayhem. But as Jarvis becomes more comfortable with the limelight, things settle down, and the set broadens out into a fine run through of Jarvis’s best moments so far. He’s clearly a fine guitarist, the voice sounds big and powerful, and I’m reliably informed that the man himself is considered to be very attractive to the opposite sex… or to the same sex, for that matter. In a welcome contrast to the modest sets becoming all too commonplace, he kicks on for well over 90 minutes, with little pause. When there is a break in the set, the shout of “Look at the sky!” is rewarded with a rendition of that very song. As a new Jarvis composition, and with the potential to be a true breakthrough track, it bears mention here. A wide-eyed ballad, with a loping, downtempo feel, Jarvis breaks out his finest Transatlantic accent and emotes like his life depended on it, which in a way it does. It’s got great commercial potential, but still contains a gently sardonic lyric, even when it on the surface it’s a love song. Great stuff.
Inevitably the set ends with ‘Gay Pirates’, but there’s few songs which could bring a set to a close so well and with such a final crescendo. There’s such a breadth to the material on offer here tonight, the audience are left with a feeling of tired sufficiency, which of course is a fine excuse to head downstairs to the bar and mull things over with a few pints of imported lager. Milling around in the bar afterwards are Jarvis’s cohorts Dave Egan and Tom Hannaford, co-stars in The Naughty Room, deputising as roadies, merch stand guys, and whatever other tasks they can perform to keep the Cosmo show running. There is the sense that this is a little family business, running on goodwill and a shoestring budget, the absolute opposite of the big corporate shindig going on across town. And all the better for it in terms of credibility.
Before the show, TGTF had a quick chat with Jarvis. He comes across as lucid, easy-going, and utterly candid, with no hesitation in answering some of the more personal questions put to him. This is how it went:
Why do you make the music you do?
I didn’t really try anything else. Music was always the thing. I felt a need to make pieces which were thorough and credible in themselves, and which had to have a good reason to be made in the first place – be that a message, or a story, or a moral argument the audience was supposed to take away from the song. It’s very easy to make a three-minute song that’s just a throwaway description of something. I like proper ideas, fictional stories that are pieced together into a rhyming narrative.
Such as ‘Love This’, where you take on God?
He pisses me off a little bit sometimes. What I find incomprehensible is that some people are incapable of seeing the truth of the point of view expressed within that song. I find the fact that they refuse to consider the fact that their belief may be false more frustrating than the belief in itself. For me it wouldn’t be a lack of faith that would stop me believing, it would be my realising something else; rational thought if you will. Good [not God] isn’t necessary for anything other than our own well-being. Things will still live and die and nobody cares if that happens. We are clearly the ones that need good to be around – to prevent genocide or whatever. So we should be the ones to globalise its necessity, rather than localising it to a God, a God that will limit us in other ways. ‘It was meant to be,’ they always say. Unbelievable.
What’s it like growing up in Devon? You can hear the Southwest influence in your music.
Living in Devon, you’re automatically at a disadvantage if you want to do anything: it’s isolated, and not just geographically. If you’re from there, it doesn’t have a lot going for it. People don’t realise that there are real regular human beings living in the beautiful place of Devon – it’s not all sheep and fields. If you’re skint in Devon, it’s worse than if you’re skint anywhere else. At least in a city there’s things to do, there’s options – all there is in Devon is the pub.
That aspect of Plymouth is pretty well documented in ‘The Naughty Room’.
All the guys in the film, like Dave Egan who plays Subaru, are from Devon; they improvise around the lines that I write, so what you hear is a true reflection of Devon culture. I’m working on next movie with him as well – it’s called Abandonhope, a black comedy about a really vile metal band from Plymouth, who are really skilled at what they do, but they’re making music that doesn’t really need to be made, and that’s what the rest of the world seems to think about them. It’s really about competing with your father’s success, and escaping becoming your father yourself. The character Howard’s father used to be a big metal-head in the ‘80s, but he’s now heavily into drugs, and they play out a stubborn relationship and uncompromising view when it comes to the art of metal, which is their downfall. It’s about realising that you can escape the fate of turning out how your parents wanted you to.
Which brings us to the topic of parents. If I may say, there’s an Oedipal aspect to ‘The Naughty Room’…
I had a very, very weird upbringing. That’s where it comes from, definitely. I try not to let it manifest itself too much in Lars von Trier-like depictions of personal fantasies, but many of the wider viewpoints the story needs to exist, the opinionated philosophies of the film, are because of my background.
But your upbringing doesn’t seem to have held you back – you’re taking inspiration from it…
It’s only bad if you’re very traditional and you go by what society expects your relationship with your parents to be – and I happened to grow up comfortably deviating from that. But at the same time I learned very useful things from people who weren’t my family, and I saw early on that parents are very flawed human beings, with fucked-up heads, agendas, and things they can’t say to you because they’re afraid of how you’ll see them… And to a certain extent you have to take them at face value… until they snuff it! They’re proud of what I’m doing, but it’s still a weird relationship.
Do you feel mainstream?
Do you want to be?
No. Definitely not. Not any more, not after I heard Ludacris confirming what I suspected about the music industry, they whole soundvertising thing, where these girls will be sponsored by soft drinks companies to make music. Professor Green’s got his big advert doing the same thing. With that comes the death of artistic integrity, which is the part I’m dreading. All along the way, I was constantly advised to do the right “business” thing, to change my approach and not piss off Radio1, rather than do what I thought was right for my music at the time. [Presumably a reference to the Radio 1 ban on potential breakthrough single ‘Gay Pirates’ for using the phrase “gang rape”.]
It would be good for the mainstream to at least acknowledge my shit. But I don’t want to be ass-kissed like they ass-kiss Ben Howard.
After which TGTF went off on a tangent asking questions about the technicalities of guitar technique which are far too dull to be repeated here. So let’s just let that last, pertinent answer hang in the air for a second: “I don’t want to be ass-kissed like they ass-kiss Ben Howard.” As fate would have it, two important live shows were happening in London that night, and the other one was the Brit Awards. Indeed, it’s quite possible that Ben Howard was collecting his second Brit of the evening just as Cosmo Jarvis was invoking his name. The comparison between the two artists is entirely appropriate. Both are roughly the same age. Both are from pretty much the same place in Devon. Both are acoustic-y singer-songwriters. The figures are entirely in Howard’s favour – his only full-length album reached number four in the UK, whereas none of Jarvis’ four albums have troubled the charts.
Jarvis boasts a decent 1.5-million views of ‘Gay Pirates’, but Howard dwarfs that with 8 million views even of his pointless cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’, and similar figures for his own material. Howard makes music for coffee tables bought from Next, Jarvis’s voice sounds like he’s just about to cough up a coffee table. Howard makes music that’s as inoffensive as a pint of milk, Jarvis releases a single that questions the very existence of God and then offers to take him for a cup of something Fairtrade. Jarvis releases 9-minute epics featuring stream-of-consciousness questionings of his own sanity, Howard releases safe, four-minute dirges which endlessly repeat the same tired platitudes. Howard is a poster-boy for bland, safe, pointless, unit-shifting music for people who know no better, who have never been exposed to anything more exciting than Pinot Grigio and oven chips, and probably don’t want to be.
Jarvis is an unashamed British eccentric-savant, encapsulating the true meaning and heritage of folk music, executed in a range of different musical and visual forms – imagine Bob Dylan brought up in Devon with an always-on internet connection. Howard spent Wednesday night supping champagne and being photographed by the world’s media; Jarvis spent it slightly stoned, in front of a rapt crowd in a north London pub, being photographed by TGTF. Howard has two Brits, Jarvis has none, and even though that’s the way it should be, it says everything you need to know about the cynicism of the pop music machine as expressed through the prism of mainstream media. One final comparison: Jarvis will still be making music in 10 years’ time, and probably for the rest of his life… but Howard? I’m not so sure.
Us here at TGTF Towers are all abuzz about the new Stornoway album, which comes out in March on 4AD. Ahead of that, Carrie posed some of her burning questions to the Oxford quartet’s very tall, South African bassist Oli Steadman, who kindly and thoughtfully answered them.
I’m a newcomer to Stornoway, and I fell in love with ‘Tales from Terra Firma’ before I ever heard Beachcomber’s Windowsill (via Spotify). How is ‘Tales from Terra Firma’ different from ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’? How was the writing and recording process different? Is the sequence important, or can each album be taken as a discrete unit?
‘Beachcomber’s…’ was a collection of pretty much unrelated musical trinkets, ramshackle explorations in music as a hobby. The assortment was assembled over 5 years and tells some stories from our first days as a group, in terms of its lyrics and its production, being made in bedrooms and kitchens around Oxford.
The experiences and travelling which ‘Beachcomber’s’ brought us, were inspirational for much of the writing on ‘Tales…’. We hope it’s a more cohesive sequence of songs, with a bit more of a focus and direction. The songs try to relate true experiences that happened to us – to do that, we’ve arranged the songs with some varied instrumentation and styles, anything we could find to reflect emotions melodically, and invite the listener into these shared experiences with us.
So we hope it’s a more mature album sonically and lyrically – although we did use pretty much the same recording method. Zoom multitrack recorder plus an old XIX Pure microphone, the same we’ve used on all our vocals since day one… with many cups of tea and surrounded by outlandish instruments like the qanun (‘Knock Me on the Head’) and mbira (Hook Line Sinker).
Do you have any commentary on Spotify? Has it been worthwhile for you to have your music available to listeners that way?
I appreciate using Spotify, it means I listen to a lot more music than I would otherwise. After reading Electric Eden by Rob Young for example, I was able to plug in to this whole English folk music collection right there, which wouldn’t have been as easy without the service. I’m also rediscovering my South African roots and finding a lot of old Zulu Maskandi recordings. There is very little video record of this available, so YouTube is not an option, and the artists don’t send their discs to the UK. Without Spotify, I’d just have my terribly out of date CD collection…
In the same way I’m glad people can discover our music for free/cheap using Spotify. As an extreme model of selling recorded music, I quite like the idea of an album as a business card. You hand it out for free/cheap on services like Spotify, and once people listen and discover you, then they’ll pay to come to a gig. When new music is so easy to find and hear, a fan can make their judgments about which artists they love, and taste is truly free, tather than previously, where fans were being restricted by what was in the charts. Online streaming is helping democratise music and wrest control from the bigger labels and their billboards.
My favorite track on ‘Tales From Terra Firma’ is ‘The Great Procrastinator’. I especially love the woodwinds on this track. Was that a fun one to record, and do you enjoy performing it live? Which song on the album is your favorite? What are some of the challenges of performing the songs live vs. recording them in the studio?
Thanks! It was the one we recorded in the East Oxford Community Centre, where we previously did ‘Zorbing’ and ‘Watching Birds’. The band played the song together in whole takes, and laid the clarinets over at the end – I got to dust off my old instrument from high school.
We enjoy playing it live; it’s seemed to be a crowd favourite on this first tour. [It] can be tough reproducing it live because I can’t play four clarinets and double bass at once – and we can’t hire a clarinet quartet – so we’ve arranged it for muted trumpets and violin instead. The same goes for the other songs – some instruments are only used in a single song each night… so we have to be imaginative and economise in our live arrangements. Our new general dogsbody Tom Hodgson is playing qanun, dulcimer, keyboard, trumpet and woodsaw, and he’s only been with the band 2 weeks’ gigging.
I read that you recently had a rather unique opportunity to perform on a boat for Sounds from a Room in London. What was that like?
After watching the other artists they’d had – Charlie Fink, Jarvis Cocker, Baaba Maal, Tune-yards and Andrew Bird – we were honoured and amazed to be invited to close the Room For London’s year of gigging. The boat’s logbook was full of those guys’ whimsical observations of the surreal atmosphere. It was a strange place to spend the 2 nights.
As I listened to ‘Tales from Terra Firma’, I kept imagining the songs being performed in a chamber setting, almost like a traditional art song recital. Are your songs intended for performance in large venues, or do you see yourselves as being more like chamber musicians, performing in more intimate settings?
We love unplugging for the occasional song even during our electric gigs in big theatres, and sometimes we have the chance to do full sets of acoustic arrangements like in the Room For London. In the older traditional venues, e.g., Mr. Kyps in Poole and in Oxford’s Town Hall on this tour, audiences seemed to really appreciate this. Much of our new album can be performed in this way, unlike ‘Beachcomber’s’, so we expect to be doing it a lot more in future!
Again, as a newcomer to your music, I don’t know much about your background, so I should ask a more general question—do any of you have any formal music training at all? I ask because you used such a wide variety of instruments on ‘Tales From Terra Firma’; were any of those new to you? Did you have to take the time to learn to play them, or do you simply experiment with them until you get the sound you want?
Brian was a boy chorister in Bristol, Jon learned classical piano and cello. Rob and I come from South Africa where we mostly learned percussion and group singing… Because of the age range in the band, we all have some different listening tastes. As a result, each new song arrangement starts with no preconceptions or destination – we just try to hear the lyrical sentiment and head together in the direction it most strongly suggests, adding new instruments as we go. If that means learning a new Mediterranean instrument, e.g., the qanun for ‘Knock Me on the Head’, Jon’s always willing!
One thing that particularly strikes me, on both albums, is the lilting, legato style of the singing. Some of the backing vocals almost have a college glee club feel to them. Are the vocals something you particularly focus on? Have any of you had any formal voice training, or is this a natural sound for you?
In ‘The Great Procrastinator’, we imagined a village pub with beer in mugs on tables and a jug band joining in boisterously. The East Oxford Community Centre seemed best to realise this idea; we all stood around the one mic and tried to match each other while maintaining some beery warbles. In other songs where we overdub vocals one by one, we like experimenting with the room to get a good match between our voices. It may all be down to the microphone we use – the same one we’ve always had on our vocals since the very first demos for ‘Beachcomber’s’. It’s cheap, ancient and ‘Made in Thailand’…but has always worked well with our particular sound.
Some of the songs on ‘Tales From Terra Firma’ seem to have been inspired by specific places, particularly ‘Farewell Appalachia’. The songs in general use a lot of visual imagery, both in the lyrics and the instrumental parts. Can you talk a bit about the places or scenes that inspired some of the songs, or about the kind of imagery you were trying to convey?
‘The Great Procrastinator’ mentions English places like Offa’s Dyke in Oxfordshire, there are 2 live songs ‘Waiting on the Clock’ and ‘When You Touch Down From Outer Space’, which name check much of Oxford Town… and of course ‘Zorbing’ mentions Cowley where we formed as a band, and encompasses the venues where our fellow Oxford bands Radiohead, Foals and Supergrass all started gigging. It’s a town we feel strongly rooted to, welcoming and inspiring.
‘Farewell Appalachia’ is actually dedicated to a band we saw many years ago. It was written on the Appalachian Trail, but doesn’t contain much specific mention of the place. In this case we wanted to convey the outdoors using music without specifying location in the lyric.
‘Knock Me on the Head’ has a very definite nautical feeling about it. The clear imagery and the infectiously singable chorus make this the most accessible, radio-friendly song on ‘Tales From Terra Firma’. Did you intentionally write it as a single, or did you decide that after the album was written?
Decided it after…we actually recorded about 20 tracks for the disc, and picked out the best of them for the release, based on what linked to tell a story. This just seemed the poppiest and most representative out of that shortlist.
The lyrics are partially informed by “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, which also inspired the video (the song is reviewed here; watch the video here); it tells of a hermit, wedding guest, mariner and various other characters being involved in a sea voyage… There is hope and disaster and we hope the song presents that duality convincingly.
It’s one of the first times we’ve used melodic motifs to represent particular characters and recurring ideas; pop songs are mostly too short to do this, so we had to fill it to the brim with hooks and harmonies. This may be why it took us a whole year to finish! Personally it reminds me of the soundtrack to Asterix in Britain, one of my favourite films as a kid.
Finally, you’re about to embark on a tour of the UK (in fact, by the time you read this, you may already be touring). Do you have any further tour plans for the rest of 2013? Summer festivals? Our American readers (myself included) would be especially interested in any possible American dates?
We are very excited to be announcing some North American dates very soon. [There are plans for] UK festivals including Green Man and Latitude, and hopefully Australia later in the year. Rob and I have many family and school friends in South Africa, so our dream is to tour there. If we can get them buying the album, we’ll be sent out there… so South Africans, get on iTunes now please!
Many thanks to Oli for answering our many questions and Jonathan for helping us sort this for us.
Photo above of Huw Stephens holding court at SXSW 2012‘s UK Trade and Investment showcase at Latitude 30 – 17th March 2012
After our lengthy discussions about the BBC Sound of 2013 acts, it only seems right that TGTF spoke to one of Radio 1’s big hitters to find out who they ‘really’ thought was going to make musical inroads this year. Luckily for me, one of those just happened to pitch up on my doorstep, if only briefly. Huw Stephens, the youngest DJ to ever have had a slot on Radio 1 at the time, popped into Propaganda Lincoln at The Engine Shed last Saturday night (the 19th of January).
So we know what he tells the airwaves what he enjoys, but what would he tell me? “There’s a band called The 1975 [who we’ve written quite a lot about! – Ed.] that I really rate very highly who didn’t make the Sound of 2013 list, and there’s a band called Bastille [who popped up at #2 on the TGTF 10 for 2013 poll – Ed.] around at the moment that should do quite well.”
Being tipped by a Radio 1 DJ, though, can often be enough to properly make it in the big bad world of modern music. But Huw argues that while being on the BBC Sound of… list mat be a good start, it depends on a variety of factors whether you can hit it big.
“It depends on how commercial they can sound and if they are going to end up scaring people away by doing that. There are some bands on the Sound of… list who might find it difficult to sell records, but who are really good. But I am really enjoying at the moment The 1975 and they aren’t on the list. I also just bought an album by a guy called Matthew E. White, which is something I am really enjoying at the moment. He’s kind of a very soulful guy from America and he’s made a really good record.”
While Huw may spend a lot of his time scouting out and championing new music, sets like the one he played at Lincoln’s Propaganda aren’t really the place for the new tunes.
“Well, at nights like Propaganda, you’ve got the fact that it’s Saturday night, people want to have a good time. I’ve tried playing some of the new stuff before and it doesn’t always go down well. It’s great on the radio playing the more innovative new stuff, and it’s great at live gigs if that’s what you’re going for. But Propaganda is famed for like the big indie hits so I try and keep it to that.
“Obviously a few bands do make it into the playlist.”
So with Huw aiming to take the crowd by storm in Lincoln, I popped the question, what’s his biggest Propaganda banger?
“I always play ‘Song 2’ by Blur, and ‘Fat Lip’ by Sum 41 always makes an appearance along the line.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 15th January 2013 at 11:00 am
Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2013 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change.
Carrying on with the genre section of the exclusive TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013 to continue through January each Tuesday, today we’re bringing you the UK bands slated to perform at this year’s SXSW that play rock, punk, metal and every combination in between. (Last week, we brought you the pop and pop hybrid acts list, which you can catch up on here.) Each part of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013 is a handy resource if you’re wondering which acts to catch at this year’s marathon week of showcases, parties and secret shows. But I hope it’ll also introduce you to the solo artists and bands you haven’t heard of, because that’s the most exciting thing about SXSW: at any one moment, you could walk into a bar, a club, a hotel, a warehouse, wherever…and you might just discover the next big thing in music.
What do all these acts in the rock / punk / metal genre list have in common besides being from Britain? Powerful guitars, punishing bass and drums and in most cases, vocals worthy of idolatry. How they achieve this differs from act to act, as you will read and see/hear below.
Belligerence (added 10/01/13) – heavy metal from Portsmouth. I’m finding it hard to find information on them, as there’s another band – also metal – from Prague with the same name…
File next to: Biohazard, Clutch, Pantera
The Blackout – Welsh post-hardcore band who have been soldiering on since their formation in 2003. Right, that means they’ve been around a decade. How many other bands, no matter what the genre, still exist after 10 years? They must be doing something right. Their next album, ‘Start the Party’, is scheduled to be out on the 21st of January 2013. We won’t post the name of their sweary big hit, but John mentions it in his day 2 roundup of Leeds Fest 2011.
Brutality Will Prevail – This Cardiff hardcore band had been signed previously to Alex Fitzgerald’s Holy Roar label and are now with Purgatory Records (sensing a theme here?), who this year released their latest album, ‘Scatter the Ashes’. Expect something punishing.
Touring with: Cancer Bats and Empress in March 2013 (maybe now they won’t appear at some of the dates on this previous organised tour, since the middle of it is smack dab during SXSW).
China Rats – Leeds lad rock. Legend has it that thanks to the tour bus of Bat for Lashes breaking down on the way to this year’s Benicassim, the band found themselves headlining the Valencia festival. Is ‘(At Least Those) Kids are Getting Fed’ a commentary on the North East, or a wider problem across Britain?
The Crookes – The Crookes made their SXSW debut in 2011 and when I finally met them in Brighton in May 2012, they were eager to return, so I’m really pleased for them getting another SXSW nod. This time, they’ll have the good time sounds of ‘Hold Fast’ (my top album of 2012) under their belts and I’m sure there will be a gaggle of new American fans of theirs (mostly female?) following their every move. I’ll be catching them as many times as I can, so do come and say hello.
Seeing that I’ve been a fan of theirs since the ‘Dreams of Another Day’ EP in 2010, there is a boatload of Crookes coverage you can read on TGTF, starting here.
Crowns – Coming off of their December tour raising awareness of UK homelessness, Cornwall’s Crowns will bring their fun rock ‘n’ roll sound to Austin. I missed their show at the Cornwall Pasty Company at last year’s Great Escape (really kicking myself over this…I mean, come on, that would have been the ultimate party conversation starter, right?) but I’m determined to catch them on American soil.
Read all of our previous Crowns coverage here.
The Enemy – my guess is that the Enemy are to be the younger equivalent of and will act like Kaiser Chiefs at last year’s SXSW: pulling in a good number of fans for their perfectly good but possibly unextraordinary sets in a post-Oasis breakup world. Since they’ve been around for a while (3 albums’ worth) in the UK, they’re not likely to be high on the average UK attendees’ must-see list, but I’ve never seen them before, so if they show up at Stubb’s, I might head on over.
Read our previous Enemy coverage here.
Evans the Death – This band already has a Rolling Stone description (huh?): “This London band mixes post–Smiths jangle and early–grunge sludge, as Katherine Whitaker explores varying shades of bad romance. Her raw emotion blends with slashing, whirling guitars to inject paralysis with weird power.” When you see they’ve been signed to Slumberland Records here in America (‘Allo Darlin’ and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart‘s American home), it all seems to make sense…
Sounds like: the Libertines, if they had a female out in front
Gallops – why do I feel the need to mention Mogwai every time I hear a proggy band? Wrexham group Gallops aren’t nearly hard enough to warrant the comparison, although with titles like ‘Astaroth’ and ‘Hongliday’ their Blood and Biscuits’ debut ‘ ‘Yours Sincerely, Dr. Hardcore’, you’d not be putting experimental band in the pop box anyhow. (Something interesting I found on the band’s Tumblr: the linked to the Kitsune Maison 11 compilation – didn’t see that coming at all.)
Gallows – they’re punks. They deliver punishing sets at festivals, such as at 2000 Trees last year. And Frank Carter left them in 2011 to start Pure Love. That’s all you really need to know, right?
Hawk Eyes – punishing hard rock from Leeds. Their 2012 album ‘Ideas’ got top marks from Kerrang! and Artrocker so you know where this is going…
Nik Turner’s Hawkwind – the current incarnation of history’s first space rock groups.
Heaven’s Basement (added 10/01/13) – a hard rock band who has been soldiering on for quite a while (since 2008) and are releasing their debut album, ‘Filthy Empires’, this year. They’ve supported big names like Bon Jovi and Papa Roach, so is this an indicator of their hard rock prowess? We’ll see at this year’s event.
The Joy Formidable – what can we say about Welsh rock band Joy Formidable that hasn’t already been said? When you’ve been hand-picked by Dave Grohl as the man’s own favourite band right now, calling them “a killer live band”, ’nuff said really, yeah? The other facts that they are truly some of the loveliest people we have met and are always so happy about our coverage of them? That’s just icing on the cake. I’ve seen them several times now but the only time I’ve seen them at SXSW was on a live stream in 2011, which doesn’t really count, so I’m making it a point to catch them this time around.
Read all our previous coverage of the Joy Formidable here.
Kassidy – some have called them the Scottish Kings of Leon, but that’s just lazy journalism. We’ve been following the folky rock hybrid band since their early EPs in 2010, and trust us, they’re way better than the Followills.
Read our previous coverage of Kassidy here.
Kill It Kid – wow, I don’t have to write a piece on them, because they placed #10 on our 10 for 2013 list and Martin’s already done for me. Revivalist blues from Bath.
Klaxons – they’ve been around a while. They won a Mercury Prize in 2007 for ‘Myths of the New Future’. Their last album ‘Surfing the Void’ released in 2010 “>has a cat in an astronaut suit on the cover. Sorry, I’m having trouble sounding knowledgeable about Klaxons because I don’t really like them all that much.
Read our previous coverage on Klaxons here.
Little Barrie – ‘powerhouse’ is a word that seems to be following this Nottingham formed, London transplanted trio. But if you’re going to call Little Barrie a powerhouse trio, then surely you mean to compare to the greats of rock ‘n’ roll.
Sounds like: a more radio-polished Cream or at least a band that came out swinging in the Sixties, not in the Noughties
LostAlone – Derby band who have been described as “breathtaking Queen-style harmonies and classic metal bite” and compared to Muse. How is it possible that we’ve never heard about them, then?
New Ivory – according to MTV Iggy, these guys from London are the new knights of British indie rock. I am struggling to find a comparison, except maybe they sound like early Arctic Monkeys or Two Door Cinema Club, but not as catchy? (Yeah, I know. Damning with faint praise, aren’t I? Sorry.) Steve Aoki is a fan, having signed them to his Dim Mak Records. I dunno. Maybe they’ll actually sound better in person at SXSW.
Orange Goblin (added 10/01/13) – formerly known as Our Haunted Kingdom, on first glance you have to wonder if the new name was for a cuddlier image. So imagine my surprise that this is a heavy metal band! Having put out their first album in 1997, they’re definitely the granddaddies of the rock/metal/punk group, but having changed their sound from stoner/doom to their current more metal sound proves that they aren’t willing to stand in one place musically. A special live album for their devoted, ‘A Eulogy for the Fans’, will be released in March.
Palma Violets – I’ve refrained about writing about Palma Violets from Lambeth, South London, as what I’ve heard from them makes me think of The Vaccines, who came out of an NME promotional campaign firestorm and their #3 placing on the BBC Sound of 2011 poll with loads of fans clamouring to see them at major festivals. It’s 2013 now and look what’s happened: Palma Violets are on the BBC Sound of 2013 longlist. Overhyped band leads to foregone conclusion…appearing as a support act to headliners Django Django on the 2013 NME Awards tour next month sounds like an NME mistake then…
PAWS – Scottish three-piece banging out tunes in a garage-y, lo-fi style. It should come as no surprise that they have a strong DIY aesthetic, as they’re great fans of bands like Dinosaur Jr and the Pixies, even having a song called ‘Kim Deal’ in their arsenal.
Sounds like: the Cribs or Peace, if they were from far north of the border.
Peace – We won’t waste your time here, since the band have already been tipped on the BBC Sound of 2013 poll. Read our previous Peace coverage, including their 10 for 2013 profile (they placed #5 on this last readers’ poll), here.
Peers – 6music’s Tom Robinson was an early supporter of this Reading band in 2010, the year the young band, then all under the age of 18, played the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds. The unsigned band cite Bombay Bicycle Club as a major influence, and if you squeeze your eyes real tight, you can hear Jack Steadman’s impact on singer Matt Thompson’s vocals.
Savages – dissonant post-punk via an unusual package – four women from London. Is it their anti-establishment stance that attracted the BBC Sound of 2013 tipsters? We’ll never know for sure but I guess imitating Patti Smith and looking sullen are the highest form of flattery? They could have at least smiled for the photos on their Facebook…
Sounds like: trying too hard to be a 21st century Siouxsie and the Banshees
Sharks – usually punk is associated with a lo-fi, scuzzy sound, but this band from Leamington Spa sound remarkably polished, with hybrid punk/pop songs that could have easily slotted in with the music I listened here in America in high school.
Sound like: a grown up Blink-182, or Green Day when they weren’t so political and were still fun
Tall Ships – math rock meets indie rock in an epic way via three high-spirited lads from Brighton. John adored their 2012 opus ‘Everything Touching’ and for a Foals loving nation, it’s a wonder they aren’t bigger in the UK. Foals? Who are they?
Read our previous coverage on Tall Ships here.
Tango in the Attic – Scottish band from Glenrothes having Two Door Cinema Club-type guitars with reverb.
File next to: Smith Westerns
Throne – there’s not a lot known about this London band, except that they’re known to ‘level rooms’ with their bad boy riffage when they appear in the Capital. You have been warned.
TOY (added 10/01/13) – psychedelic rock from a band made up of some members for the group Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong. I don’t feel like it’s really necessary to write about them, considering nearly every friend of mine rates them quite highly. Not really my thing, but I’m pretty sure they will do well in Austin.
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls (added 10/01/13) – I nearly put Frank Turner’s band in the singer/songwriter category, but since his appearances at this year’s SXSW will be louder and more raucous than his solo turn last year at the Xtra Mile Recordings showcase, in the end there was no contest.
We’ve written quite about the man on TGTF, and you can read all of that through here.
Virals – vehicle for Worcester’s Shaun Hencher, who with his live band have most recently supported #5 10 for 2013 band Peace in the UK. Now Hencher’s looking to make a big splash at their American live debut at SXSW.
Sounds like: a cross between Male Bonding, Two Wounded Birds (RIP) and the Vaccines. Get yer sunnies out!
The Virginmarys – Macclesfield will soon be known for more than Ian Curtis, if this trio have anything to say about it. Their sound? Hard rocking, arse-kicking tunes.
File next to: Kasabian, Biffy Clyro
Wet Nuns – even with quite possibly one of the silliest names for a band ever, Sheffield duo Wet Nuns had a spectacular 2012, getting attention not only for their silly name but their punk crossed with blues schizophrenic sound.
Sounds like: the evil child borne from Band of Skulls and the Black Keys
While She Sleeps – is heavy metal more your thing? Then I suppose you should look to Sheffield and a band like While She Sleeps for your jollies. Luke caught them last summer at day 2 of Slam Dunk South.
Young Guns – this band has been around for quite a while, but it wasn’t until summer 2012 that they had an American record deal. Radio-friendly, not too hard rock sound made by youngish, good-looking boys in leather: in short, an American label signing coup.
Read all our previous coverage of Young Guns here.
The Zombies – “What’s your name? / Who’s your daddy? / Is he rich like me?” All kidding aside, the Zombies have been around for over 50 years. Fifty effin’ years. They called themselves the Zombies before it was hip to like zombies. Though they’re down to only two original members – Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent – contrary to popular belief, it was they, not Friendly Fires, who put St. Albans on the musical map.
Read Braden’s interview with Colin and Rod from 2 years ago here.
Electronic bands and DJs are up next week. So catch us next Tuesday for the third chapter of the genre section of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013!
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 14th January 2013 at 11:00 am
The folks at SXSW decided to make my life more complicated in adding more bands last Thursday (10/01/2013) to their officially showcasing list. Since I’d already published my pop and pop hybrid UK act list last Tuesday, I decided it wouldn’t be fair to leave anyone out, so here is an addendum…
Camera Obscura – I couldn’t be happier that Traceyanne Campbell and company are heading back to these shores, after only seeing them once – in 2009 – in support of ‘My Maudlin Career’, which still rates highly on my favourite albums of all time. Sterling songwriting that tickles the heartstrings? Yes, please.
Frightened Rabbit – Scottish indie rock band that started out as a cult favourite in Britain but are now pretty much household names in America, selling out increasingly larger venues on every successive North American tour. The group from Selkirk is showing everyone how it’s done – with great songs and loads of hard work.
Catch all of our previous coverage on Frightened Rabbit here.
Lovelife – whatever to became to Viva Brother? Singer Leonard Newell and former Mirrors member Ally Young have reconvened to this poppier duo.
Scanners – eclectic alt-pop band from London already beloved by America and the UK for all the times their songs that have already been used in television spots.
The TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013 rolls on tomorrow with the rock, metal and punk acts of the UK!